In the United States there is an epidemic going on that is extremely difficult to deal with. This epidemic is unlike any other facing our nation and its people. It is seemingly invisible, sometimes undetectable, and takes lives in the most devastating way possible.
That epidemic is suicide.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America. It kills 45,000 people every year. It is estimated that for every “successful” Suicide that 11.4 people are admitted to hospitals for self harming behaviors and attempted suicides. It is estimated that even more attempt Suicide and are not hospitalized. A 2016 survey says that 0.5% of the American population have attempted Suicide. That means one out of every 200 people have attempted to take their own life.
But we don’t just see it in the statistics. This week alone famous Fashion Designer Kate Spade and Chef/Television Personality Anthony Bourdain took their own lives along with approximately 861 other Americans that we will never hear about (and countless people in other countries). Suicide is all around us and it is growing more and more ruthless and constant in its attacks on humanity.
In light of all of this, suicide is clearly a topic that the church needs to talk about. It is one that we must have not only an answer to, but an alternative freely offered. We have to get to a place where we can offer hope, love, and comfort to those who are suffering from depression and those affected by the suicide of loved ones. This means, we have to try and understand what the Scriptures declare about suicide.
When we look in Scripture, we have five instances where people are described as taking action that results in their own death.
King Saul and his Armor-bearer – in I Samuel 31:3-5 King Saul is injured in battle and falls on his own sword when his Armor-bearer refuses to kill him out of fear. Finally, the fear overtakes the Armor-bearer and he takes his own life beside Saul’s.
Abimelech – A cruel king over Israel who killed many, including 69 of his own half-brothers. In Judges 9:50-55, God uses a woman to stop him by dropping a millstone on his head. The wound is fatal, however, in order to stop people from saying that a woman killed him, Abimelech takes his own life before the wound kills him.
Ahithophel – Bathsheeba’s grandfather who stood on Absolom’s side when he rose against David. But when his advice is ignored and Absolom is defeated, he returned home to “put his house in order, and then hanged himself.” (2 Samuel 17:23)
Zimri – An evil king of Israel who was facing utter defeat. In I Kings 16:15-20, rather than face his enemy, Zimri instead chose to set the palace on fire, taking his own life.
Judas – Following his betrayal of Christ, Judas chooses to hang himself rather than seek forgiveness. (Matthew 27:3-4)
Samson – In his desire for revenge over the Phillistines, Samson calls out to God to restore his strength for one last great feat as he braces himself between two pillars and pushes them down, destroying his enemies as he takes his own life. (Judges 16:25-30)
Each of these stories all show varying reasons for the death of these men. Two were injured and facing soon death from wounds, one was facing an insurmountable enemy, one was afraid after he watched his king die, one was ashamed after betraying his grandson-in-law, one was seeking revenge on those who enslaved him, and one was ashamed after betraying his Messiah. We see in this that there are some common themes that drove all of these men to suicide, and these common themes are the real things we need to focus our attention on.
They were hopeless.
They were afraid.
They were lost and alone.
They were guilty and ashamed.
They were full of pride and ego.
The truth is that suicide is forgivable. I realize this goes against what many say, but let me explain. The Bible teaches us that only those who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven and I have never heard anyone teach that someone who attempts suicide and is unsuccessful is damned for eternity because of their failed attempt. This horrible tragedy of suicide can be the end of the road for a person; It is a moving up of an appointment to meet one’s Lord, but it is not unforgivable if one is lucky enough to have an opportunity to repent.
The problem with suicide in light of salvation is the fear and the pride and the guilt that goes along with it. Dying while in the clutches of those sins is not the way any of us should want to go, however, it is the way that many (if not all) who die of suicide do go.
But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Suicide is just a final way that the devil can use to steal and destroy us, just like the Bible says.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
The first part of this passage in John absolutely sounds applicable to suicide. What is suicide except a theft of life through the killing of oneself and the destruction of one’s future? But continue reading! Jesus came so that instead of the pain that we feel, instead of our hopelessness and despair, instead of our fear and our anguish we can experience life. Not only life but abundant, everlasting life that is more amazing than we could have ever imagined.
If you’re afraid today, please know that Jesus loves you and you have nothing to fear.
If you’re sorrowful today, please know that Jesus loves you and that means that while there is a time to hurt for a season that if we put our trust in Him things will get better.
If you’re full of pride today, please know that God is far bigger and greater than you are. Understand your place and while acknowledging our strengths is good, we mustn’t allow ourselves to think we are greater than we are.
If you think you’re alone right now, please know that God is right by your side and that He loves you and just wants to know you better.
If you feel guilty and ashamed of who you are or what you’ve done, please know that Jesus died on the cross so that you didn’t have to feel that way anymore. He bore your sin and your shame and He did it because He loved you so much that He wanted to make sure there was a way for you to know Him, too.
Please know this, and please get help. Our world has had enough death, enough suicide, enough pain. We don’t need anymore and you deserve more. God loves you and so do we. Please, if you can’t trust a church or a pastor or a loved one, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and get help there.
And, just as importantly, if you love someone, let them know today. If you think they might be hurting, let them know that they can trust you. If you think they’re alone, stand beside them. Be there for the people you love. Love them with everything you have and let them know that you’re there for them. Pray for them, love on them, take care of them. Together, we can beat suicide.